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Can I Amend My Will Without Having to Completely Start Over?

In this video, Attorney Thomas Burton answers the following question "Can I Amend My Will Without Having to Completely Start Over?"

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Hello, I'm Attorney Thomas Burton. I'm an estate planning and asset protection attorney here in Wisconsin and today's question comes from Reedsburg, Wisconsin and the viewer asks the following:

"Can I amend my will without having to completely start over? I created my own will online and had it notarized etc. I live in Wisconsin; can I amend it easily without having to start over? If so, how do I do that? I need to include my business in the will so my executor has access to everything in my business including my financial accounts, it is when I die."

Okay, so one note off the top, the viewer mentioned having the will notarized, a will being notarized alone is not enough. So it needs two witnesses and then there's an additional option you can have it notarized as well but a notary alone is not enough. A notary is enough to create a trust, in fact, you can create a trust with just your own signature but common practice is to have it notarized.

But at the outset, make sure your will was witnessed by two disinterested witnesses and not just a notary or it may not be valid at all.

Now to answer your question, yes, you can execute an amendment to your will which we call a 'Codicil' and a Codicil is just that it's just a fancy word for an amendment to the will, so you create the first will and then you create the Codicil at a later date but in order to be valid, this Codicil must be signed in front of two disinterested witnesses, just like your original will when it was signed at witness.

For many attorneys these days, if we use modern software and it's been a few years since you created your first will, not always but often if there's big changes, we'll just create a completely new will instead of executing a very long Codicil, because it can get confusing if you pile too many codicils or amendments on one will.

Now you mentioned your business asset and it is important you want someone to have control after you're gone but there may be additional ways to transfer the business without probate upon your death and I would suggest looking at that such as using a trust or other non-probate transfer methods and if you have a business involved, it can get very messy quickly, going through a probate. So I recommend you discuss all this with a qualified estate planning attorney in your area. Even if you don't want to use a trust, there's other methods I use sometimes within the business documents, the entity itself, to transfer a business without probate which will lead to a lot less time, expense and delay and paperwork for your heirs.

Again, just to be clear, you can amend your will, execute a codicil it's called, which is basically like we amend the trust, so it's like an amendment to trust but we call it a Codicil for will but make sure if you do this, you sign it in front of two disinterested witnesses just like the original will.

So great question and thank you for asking!

© 2021 Burton Law LLC. All Rights Reserved. Transcript and captions provided for ease of access for the hearing impaired. For questions about this topic, or to suggest a topic for a future blog post, please contact the office.


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